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Bob S
05-02-2010, 07:02 PM
ARTICLE (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/outdoors/s_679130.html?source=rss&feed=3)

By Bob Frye, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, May 2, 2010

Confusion and confrontation.

Those are two words that might be used to describe the debate that's been raging for the last few months about Pennsylvania's deer management assistance program, or DMAP, as it's commonly known.

Back in January, Pennsylvania Game Commissioner Tom Boop of Northumberland County suggested that the commission suspend the issuance of DMAP permits for public land until the agencies in charge of managing them show they are also doing things such as cutting timber to promote forest regeneration.

That caused some tension. Dan Devlin, director of the bureau of forestry within the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said commissioners were ignoring science to listen to the complaints of a handful of emotional hunters.

When commissioners met again at the end of April, Jay Delaney said he was offended by that.

"That's what we do. To say that we shouldn't listen to sportsmen, that's appalling," Delaney said.

Devlin agreed that perhaps he'd been too harsh. But he maintained that the bureau of forestry needs DMAP for the sake of forests and deer and other wildlife. And it uses it on a limited basis, he added.

The bureau tries to estimate deer densities using techniques such as counting deer pellets, he said. It also monitors deer browse impacts.

Commisisoner Ron Weaner asked whether DCNR officials in Harrisburg mandate that regional foresters participate in DMAP, whether they want to or not, as some have suggested. That's been a concern and an ongoing source of frustration for hunters and commission officials, he said.

Devlin asnwered by saying that DCNR applies a test to its lands.

"We ask, do you have to fence to get regeneration? If the answer is yes, we say this is something they ought to look at," Devlin said.

Hunters remain concerned that DCNR is using DMAP on state forest lands as some sort of "laboratory experiment," though, said Boop. They fear that the bureau of forestry's desire to grow a new forest will lead it to "dramatically reduce deer numbers in some areas," even to the point of eliminating them, he added.

Devlin replied by saying that the bureau has no intention of eliminating deer, but has no specific deer population goal in mind either.

"It really doesn't matter to us. It doesn't matter if it's 10 deer per square mile or 12 or 20. It really matters what the habitat conditions are," he said.

That's what more people - hunters, game commissioners and others - need to better understand, said commisisoner Dave Putnam of Centre County.

He said that many of the concerns regarding DMAP - which accounts for less than 3 percent of the overall antlerless deer harvest outside of wildlife management unit 2G, which is dominated by state forest land - are misplaced. And many people, including some connected to the commission, have not been aware of the level of detail and effort the bureau of forestry puts into deciding how to apply DMAP, he said.

Finally, it's true that some areas cannot support many deer, regardless of whether DMAP is used.

The solution to easing some of that tension might lie in education, he said.

"I think maybe we can all do a better job of conveying what that carrying capacity is," Putnam said.